This week, the City of Philadelphia announced a number of new COVID restrictions and mandates in an effort to curb the spread of the Delta variant, and warns that further action may be necessary if case counts continue to increase.

 Masks or Proof of Vaccination Required for Indoor Businesses

On August 11, the City announced new masking restrictions for indoor business and institutions. As of August 12, indoor businesses and institutions in Philadelphia must either require masks for employees and customers or verify that everyone is fully vaccinated. Certain essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and urgent cares will not be allowed to utilize the vaccinated only exception to the mask mandate, and must require masks for all staff and patrons, in order to support parents of children too young to be vaccinated.

The Amendment to the Emergency Order specifies that “indoor” means a location enclosed by three or more non-permeable barriers and an overhead covering, such as a tent or rooftop. Tents with one side open are considered indoor spaces, while a space that is fully open on two or more sides is considered an outdoor space. Under this definition, many of the enclosed streeteries in the city will be considered indoor spaces for purposes of the masking or proof of vaccination requirement. Indoor dining may continue, but restaurants that do not require proof of vaccination must require masking when patrons are not seated and eating or drinking.

For large outdoor events of 1,000 or more people, attendees must be masked unless (1) the event is exclusively seated; (2) the business requires everyone onsite to be fully vaccinated and institutes a reasonable procedure for verifying vaccination status; or (3) the Department of Public Health approves a safety plan for the event.

For businesses that do not require proof of vaccination, all customers and employees must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Employers and businesses should continue to closely monitor changes in state and local guidance and restrictions in response to the uptick in Delta variant cases.

Vaccine Mandate or Double Masking for City Employees

Also on August 11, the City announced that, as of September 1:

  • All City employees must provide proof that they are fully vaccinated.
  • New hires must be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated by September 1 must wear two masks (a cloth mask over a disposable or surgical mask) at all times while working on-site.

The City will continue to provide four hours of compensatory time to non-uniform City employees who provide proof of full vaccination.

Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers and Those at Philly Colleges and Universities

On August 13, the city of Philadelphia announced a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and colleges and universities in the city. Beginning October 15, all healthcare workers in the city must be vaccinated absent a religious or medical exemption. This includes hospital gift shop workers, cafeteria staff, and similar positions who may be in contact with a patient, but who are not strictly healthcare workers. Workers with an exemption must undergo PCR or Antigen testing twice per week.

Also on October 15, all college staff, students, and faculty in the city must be vaccinated absent a religious or medical exemption. Colleges and universities must offer one or more of the following accommodations to those with an exemption:

  1. Submit to PCR testing once per week, or Antigen testing twice per week;
  2. Colleges and universities with 90% or more of their population vaccinated may choose to offer the option of double masking and maintaining social distance in indoor public spaces; or
  3. If feasible, colleges and universities may choose to offer virtual learning.

The vaccine mandate for colleges and universities also requires that contractors be vaccinated, although the contracting agencies are to be responsible for maintaining vaccination and testing records.

Healthcare settings, colleges, and universities should ensure they have administrative processes in place to confirm proof of vaccination, identify employees and students with an exception, and conduct regular testing for those with an exemption. Ballard Spahr’s labor and employment team is ready to assist any employers seeking to roll out a mandatory vaccination program or a COVID-19 testing program.